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Talking with a friend of mine about the existence if God, I argued that science is the better way to believe in something, instead of believing in something using personal belief or faith; for example for the existence of God I argued that since science hasn't given a proof of the existence of God there is no reason to believe in it; however my friend said that he believes in God because he "feels him in his heart" and stated that it is a reasonable reason to believe.

My question: is science better than personal belief? And if it is so, why?

marked as duplicate by user2953, Five σ, virmaior May 12 '15 at 15:15

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  • I have answered question on what beliefs means in the Christian context. Seems to be a recurring theme. – Neil Meyer May 12 '15 at 11:43
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    It is not without irony that a question about the merits of science should be submitted to a system that ranks answers by popularity. Just saying. – André Souza Lemos May 12 '15 at 11:49
  • Why should they be incompatible? If you take science as predictive model-building (which IMO, is the only thing deserving the name of science [sorry String Theorists]), then science says nothing about the truth or falsity of anything. This in turn means people can believe what they believe and keep building their models as long as they work. Frankly, I think this instrumental view of science is far more productive, powerful and less susceptible to the silly squabbling that seems to have collectively dumbed down Science to yet another ism. – R. Barzell May 12 '15 at 20:55
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There are different ways in which beliefs are fixated (I'm coming from Charles Sanders Peirce's "The fixation of belief", here). It can be argued that the scientific method conveys the most stable and robust of these ways, but this doesn't imply necessarily that this is how it should be, or that we won't come up with some other process that is even more stable, in the future.

Beliefs are events, things that happen in the world. They are not just propositions.

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You can point out to your friend that science is independently testable (verifiable and falsifiable) by different people, hence scientific facts are objective facts. Belief from feelings and emotions are subjective and internal, and there is no way for a outside person to independently verify them.

You can also point out to your friend that schizophrenics truly feel the voices in their head, that religious fanatics truly feel that God told them to blow up the unbelievers or the abortion clinic, and that people on drugs truly feel the visions and experiences they have when using.

If someone were to use feelings as a valid measure of legitimate belief, then the beliefs I mentioned above are all legitimate.

Finally, practitioners of different religions with contradictory beliefs have all reported the same intensity of feeling with regards to their beliefs, so which one is true and which one isn't?

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...for example for the existence of God I argued that since science hasn't given a proof of the existence of God there is no reason to believe in it.

If this is true then you would probably find no reason to believe in a great many things discussed here on SE.Phil site.

You seem to be coming down with a bad case of positivism. The cure is coming too the realisation that the view that "all ... information derived from logical and mathematical treatments and reports of sensory experience is the exclusive source of all authoritative knowledge." Is a view of epistemology and not of mathematical treatments or sensory experience.

Maybe you should get an epistemological point of view that is if true at least possible or in other words not self refuting.

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Science is good at what it's good at:

  • Make observations
  • Making theories which fit the observations
  • Using theories to suggest new experiments
  • Verifying whether experimental observations are communicable and repeatable
  • Revising theories if new experimental suggests that's necessary

I think it has been useful in advancing technology.

Your "science hasn't given a proof of the existence of God" might be summarized as Occam's razor and Russell's teapot.

However IMO personal faith is useful too. For example, one reason why you're able to learn chemistry at school might be because you personally have faith in your chemistry teacher: faith that they're talking sense, saying something that's worth learning, and that even if you don't understand them immediately there is something to be understood which you expect to understand later.

Personal faith (e.g. in the safety of the airplane or in your own unimportance) is also useful when getting on an airplane for example.

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You say that:

I argued that since science hasn't given a proof of the existence of God there is no reason to believe in it

You are assuming that there is a process by which an idea could be shown to be true or probably true: justification. As Popper pointed out in Chapter I of "Realism and the Aim of Science" justification is impossible, unnecessary and undesirable. If you assess ideas using argument then the arguments have premises and rules of inference and the result of the argument may not be true (or probably true) if the premises and rules of inference are false. You might try to solve this by coming up with a new argument that proves the premises and rules of inference but then you have the same problem with those premises and rules of inference. You might say that some stuff is indubitably true (or probably true), and you can use that as a foundation. But that just means you have cut off a possible avenue of intellectual progress since the foundation can't be explained in terms of anything deeper. And in any case there is nothing that can fill that role. Sense experience won't work since you can misinterpret information from your sense organs, e.g. - optical illusions. Sense organs also fail to record lots of stuff that does exist, e.g. - neutrinos. Scientific instruments aren't infallible either since you can make mistakes in setting them up, in interpreting information from them and so on.

We don't create knowledge (useful or explanatory information) by showing stuff is true or probably true for reasons so how do we create knowledge? We can only create knowledge by finding mistakes in our current ideas and correcting them piecemeal. You notice a problem with your current ideas, propose solutions, criticise the solutions until only one is left and then find a new problem. We shouldn't say that a theory is false because it hasn't been proven because this applies to all theories. Rather, we should look at what problems it aims to solve and ask whether it solves them. We should look at whether it is compatible with other current knowledge and if not try to figure out the best solution. Should the new idea be discarded or the old idea or can some variant of both solve the problem?

A more accurate criticism of the idea of God would point out that it doesn't solve any problems. If God made the laws of morality or science or whatever a particular way for some reason, then any physical mechanism that respects that principle would explain the same phenomenon. For example, if God made organisms to keep their genes in existence, then evolution explains their behaviour better than God. And if God had no reason for making the world behave a particular way then we might as well say "shit happens" rather than go to the trouble of postulating God. So God's existence solves no problems. And since God introduces lots of problems, like the problem of evil, the idea should be ditched.

Your friend claims that he feels God in his heart. Harry Potter fans may feel good when they think about him, but they don't feel the need to say he really exists. You friend should not need to postulate the existence of God to explain his warm and fuzzy feelings. And whatever your friend likes about the God story, he can still like it after ditching belief in God, provided there is no argument against liking it.

You ask if science is better than personal belief. It is better to have the idea that all of your ideas should be open to question. On issues where ideas can be experimentally tested, it is better to want to do the tests, so you can eliminate bad ideas. But there are issues where such tests are not possible, such as the question "Should ideas be experimentally tested where possible?" That issue can't be decided by an experimental test because any such test would presuppose that you ought to do the test. So there are issues that science can't resolve and some other way is needed to decide them. If the issue is "should I eat some ice cream?", then your personal preference that you should eat some ice cream would be more relevant than scientific knowledge about how to make ice cream.

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